MAN’S IMAGINATION has been captivated from early antiquity with the romance of underwater navigation. In very early times crude diving bells were devised. Alexander the Great was interested in submarine navigation, presumably as an aid to his campaigns of conquest. The first submarine attacks employed in warfare were conducted by divers, and Herodotus and Thucydides have described such attacks. The distinction of inventing the first submarine boat capable of self-propulsion is an honor claimed by many writers for their particular heroes. A Hollander, Cornelius van Drebbel, is credited with demonstrating about 1620 to King James I of England a submarine boat propelled by oars which operated through water-tight leather glands. While the literature of the subject abounds in references to early inventors of submarines, one fact emerges crystal clear from this sea of rumor, legend, and historical fact—the first actual submarine attack attested by definite records was made by David Bushnell’s Turtle in 1776 upon the 50-gun frigate, H.M.S. Eagle, in New York Harbor.
The First American Submarine
By Lieutenant Harry Sanders, U. S. Navy